Following the news that Pierre Gasly and Nyck de Vries had signed for Alpine and AlphaTauri respectively for next season, Ricciardo’s already limited options shrunk further, leaving just two remaining seats in the F1 2023 driver line-up at Haas and Williams. 

That prompted the Australian to concede he is not expecting to be on the F1 grid next year in the wake of his departure from McLaren. 

Instead, Ricciardo is weighing up the possibility of taking a reserve driver role as he holds out for “better opportunities” in 2024. The question is, will there be any? 

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Mercedes (only if Hamilton retires) 

With Red Bull, Ferrari and Alpine’s driver line-ups all locked out for the foreseeable, and no chance of a McLaren return, there isn’t exactly an abundance of competitive options for Ricciardo, unless something unforeseen occurs. 

While George Russell joined Mercedes on a multi-year deal from Williams, Lewis Hamilton’s current Mercedes contract only covers the 2023 season. 

According to reports, Ricciardo is in advanced talks to be Mercedes’ reserve driver for next season. Such a move would put him in prime position to replace Hamilton if the Briton decided to step away from F1 at the end of 2023. 

But recent comments from the seven-time world champion indicate he has no plans to quit any time soon as he seeks a record-breaking eighth world title, having been denied in the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

If Hamilton does sign a contract extension, as Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has claimed “is going to happen”, then there would be no full-time seat at the Silver Arrows for Ricciardo in 2024. 

Aston Martin 

There might also be an opening at Aston Martin, but only if Fernando Alonso sensationally quit after just one year, or in the event team owner Lawrence Stroll opted to part ways with his son, Lance Stroll

Both seem fairly unlikely at this stage, especially given Alonso has only just joined the Silverstone-based outfit on a multi-year deal. 

Such a scenario would require an almighty breakdown in relationship early on, or Aston Martin to produce a woefully competitive car, for the two-time world champion to leave. 

Aston Martin could be an attractive project for Ricciardo, but in reality, the team are not likely to have an opening for him in 2024, barring a dramatic shake-up. 

Alfa Romeo 

Alfa Romeo is the next most competitive option with a driver not signed up beyond the end of 2023. 

Valtteri Bottas signed a multi-year deal so won’t be going anywhere, but Zhou Guanyu’s seat could potentially be up for grabs depending on how F1’s first-ever Chinese driver performs in his sophomore campaign. 

We have seen the positive effect moving to the Swiss squad has had on Bottas after suffering a confidence knock from his years of being in Hamilton’s shadow at Mercedes. Perhaps the same could be true for Ricciardo, providing the 33-year-old with the reset and environment he needs? 

A line-up consisting of drivers with 18-grand prix wins between them would be a big coup for the Sauber-run operation amid rumours it could be taken over by Audi ahead of the German manufacturer’s planned F1 entry in 2026. 

Are there any other options?

A seat at Ferrari or Red Bull will only open up if the already-contracted Carlos Sainz or Sergio Perez have a shocker and are dropped by their teams, neither of which seem a particularly likely scenario. 

The only other teams with official openings for 2024 are the ones Ricciardo has avoided for 2023 - Haas and Williams.

Perhaps by this stage, Haas or Williams find themselves further up the F1 grid, making them a more appealing landing spot for Ricciardo. 

But it would mark something of a U-Turn for Ricciardo to move to a team he could have joined a season earlier had he not favoured a sabbatical from the sport. 

Or could Ricciardo have his F1 swansong at the team where his career properly launched by re-joining the Red Bull family and AlphaTauri? 

It is considered harder to return to F1 once a driver is out, with only rare examples of those that did leave successfully making a comeback. It remains to be seen which category Ricciardo will fall into.